Historical Mormon Prophet Smackdown

Well, it turns out that since I left the last smackdown up long enough, the lead changed twice. Eventually Elder Roberts was ahead and, since I wanted him to win, I stopped the poll before that could change again. Whew!

On to this week’s battle of all time:
Who do you think wields more influence over the church today: President Brigham Young or President Joseph F. Smith?

President Young pretty much created Utah. Also, he was responsible for section 136. Finally, he participated in plural marriage.

President Smith was the nephew of Joseph Smith and the father of another prophet. Also, he was responsible for section 138. Finally, he participated in plural marriage.

There you go. Please vote below and let us know why you chose the prophet you did.

13 Replies to “Historical Mormon Prophet Smackdown”

  1. Wasn’t Brigham Young the prophet for the longest time? And isn’t there like a university named for him? (ho ho)

    Still don’t get the concept of plural marriage. I mean, isn’t having one wife more than enough? Talk about long-suffering… =)

  2. Well, BY gave us a lot of doctrine, we just don’t believe in any of it anymore. I’ll give the nod to JFS since he was the last prophet to publish a revelation.

  3. I agree with Ned; BY was the second-most-prolific and -inventive doctrinal/theological innovator in Mormon history; his ideas just didn’t take. JFS, by contrast, was an influential advocate of the current Mormon systematization–which seems to differ meaningfully from 19th-century Mormon theology, and therefore counts as a significant influence.

  4. I think that we may be too quick to dismiss the influence of Brigham Young because of the relative lack of doctrine associated with him. I wasn’t joking when I said that he created Utah. I think that much of the culture of self-sacrifice and LDS Zionism that we have is directly derived from President Young’s tenure. In particular, by isolating the religion from the outside world, it was allowed to develop until it was able to meet the outside on its own terms. President Young created a situation where the young church could develop its own sense of self without the interferance of outside criticism. I am not sure that we would be where we are (speaking theologically and physically) without his decisions.

    It is interesting that the section from President Young is devoted to the move west. I think that we are downplaying the importance of that move here (not least, because we are downplaying it in the greater church at the moment). Without Brigham, I don’t know that we have a church at all.

  5. I’m going with Brigham. Even though he has fallen out of favor, we are still living out his legacy. That and I have to justify my three wives somehow (I hope everyone here knows that I am kidding!)

  6. For all Brigham did, and creating Utah and the Happy Valley bubble are very influential feats, JFS fathered the terrific trio of Gospel Doctrine, Doctrines of Salvation, and Mormon Doctrine (among others). These brethren and their books have had a cumulative effect that is at least as great as BY’s (their’s being doctrinal, his being cultural). Plus, with the church getting more and more global the Utah Mormon culture is becoming less and less dominating among the church as a whole.

  7. Just for the sake of getting Brother Brigham some theological air time, let’s remember his contributions in those terms (most of which he saw–with greater or lesser degrees of justification–as explications of or logical continuations of Joseph Smith’s theology): the United Order, blood atonement (in conjunction with Heber C. Kimball), family size as the determinant of degree of glory and exaltation in the Celestial kingdom, racial theology, the Adam-God doctrine. These ideas in conjunction are probably more innovative than JFS’s synthesis. The problem for BY is that, one by one, all of his ideas have fallen out of favor.

  8. What exactly do we mean when we say that a prophet’s words have fallen out of favor? I understand the way things change – we don’t practice polygamy (as mortals) anymore, blacks can have the priesthood, temple procedures change. Is that the sort of thing you guys are referring to?

    I ask out of simple curiosity, because I am largely unfamiliar with early Church history.

  9. FaithHopeLove– I think it goes beyond policy changes. We simply do not accept several of Brigham’s teachings. The most famous example, of course, is Adam-God. That had to be specifically repudiated by Spencer W. Kimball. Other of his doctrines we’ve tried to ignore and hope they’ll go away without having to dredge them up again (a mistake in my opinion). Things that would fall under this include Blood Atonement and Africans bearing the mark of Cain.

  10. So, is the official line that he wasn’t speaking as a prophet when teaching these ideas? Like Joseph Smith saying that man would never walk on the moon, it was just the man’s ideas as opposed to actual doctrine?

    Aside from personal confirmations, it would seem confusing for the general church populace to determine which was which. When was the revelation given that the Prophet would never lead the church astray? (I’m sorry if I’m misquoting.)

  11. I selected Joseph F. Smith on a doctrinal basis. As I understand it, BY and Orson Pratt were constantly locking horns on such issues as Adam-God, how Adam was created, and the nature of the Holy Ghost. BY’s ideas were pretty far out, and nowadays would place one on the fringes of the church. OP’s teachings were picked up by JFS, and later by his son Joseph Fielding Smith, and later still by Bruce R. McConkie, Joseph Fielding Smith’s son-in-law, who not only identified belief in Adam-God as a “deadly heresy.” Furthermore, he incorporated these views in his quasi-canonical work Mormon Doctrine. In short, it would seem that ultimately JFS has had the greatest doctrinal influence, with Orson Pratt having the last word (although few people give him due credit for standing up to BY in defense of what he was convinced to be scripturally correct and in line with Joseph Smith’s views). For complete details, I highly recommend Conflict in the Quorum by Gary James Bergera.

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